said Friday that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the first five-in-one vaccine designed to protect teenagers and young adults against meningococcal disease.
The new Pfizer shot, Penbraya, protects against the five most common subgroups of meningococcal disease, a rare but serious and potentially fatal illness that most often affects babies and teenagers.
Penbraya “has the potential to protect more adolescents and young adults from this severe and unpredictable disease by providing the broadest meningococcal coverage in the fewest shots,” Annaliesa Anderson, Pfizer senior vice president and head of vaccine research and development, said in a statement.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently recommends that all 11- to 12-year-olds get a meningococcal vaccine protecting against four of the subgroups — A, C, W and Y — and get a booster dose of the same vaccine type at age 16. Teenagers and young adults age 16 to 23 may also get a meningococcal B vaccine, the CDC says, particularly if they’re at increased risk due to other health conditions.
The complex vaccination schedule has weighed on uptake of the meningococcal shots, and the COVID-19 pandemic may have compounded the problem, as many families missed routine appointments when vaccinations were due, researchers say. Among teenagers who were born in 2008 — who were due for their routine adolescent vaccinations as the pandemic was raging in 2020 — uptake of meningococcal and other recommended vaccines declined, according to CDC research. Only about 60% of the 17-year-olds surveyed by the CDC last year had received both recommended doses of the ACWY vaccine, and fewer than 30% had received at least one dose of the meningococcal B vaccine.
The new Pfizer shot combines components of a meningococcal group B vaccine and an ACWY vaccine.
A CDC immunization advisory committee is set to meet Oct. 25 to discuss recommendations for the use of Penbraya in teenagers and young adults, Pfizer said.
The green light for Penbraya gives Pfizer the edge in its race with GSK
which is also working on a five-in-one meningococcal shot. GSK earlier this year released positive late-stage clinical-trial results for that vaccine.
The FDA approval of Pfizer’s shot caps a rocky week for the pharmaceutical giant, which late last Friday cut $9 billion from its full-year revenue guidance due to reduced COVID sales expectations and announced a cost-cutting program designed to deliver savings of at least $3.5 billion. Pfizer executives said on a call with analysts Monday that development of combination respiratory vaccines, such as those that provide COVID and flu protection in one shot, remains a focus for the company, in part because they can help boost vaccine uptake.
Pfizer shares were down 1.7% Friday and have dropped 40% in the year to date, while the S&P 500
has gained 10%.